Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Moldovan Culture and Health Part 2

I wrote a post when we first got here observing some cultural beliefs about health that seemed odd to us as Americans. After being here for a while, I've learned some interesting new things. Before I start, let me say a little disclaimer. Most of the things we've learned about Moldovan culture have been told to us in Romanian. I think I've got my stories straight, but some details could possibly be confused. Also, there are Moldovans everywhere on the spectrum from those who are very traditional and very convinced of these beliefs (usually people from villages), to those who are very modernized and don't believe in any of this (usually people from the bigger cities).

Many Moldovans believe that letting a baby sit up, or even holding a baby upright, will cause back problems. I'm not sure at what age it becomes okay for a baby to be upright, but I met a 6 month old last summer (pictured above) who was absolutely not allowed to sit up, even though he was clearly able to do so unassisted. One time, I sat him up in his stroller so he could better interact with Jude, and someone quickly came and made him lay back down. Out on the town, babies are only allowed to lay flat in their strollers or be carried awkwardly horizontal. If it's not July or August, they are also probably wrapped up in several layers of very thick clothes and blankets.

I mentioned in my previous post on this subject that the first few times I took Jude to the market, everybody was talking sternly to me and motioning toward Jude, and now that I know this, I think it was probably not only because he wasn't dressed warmly enough (in early September!), but also because he was only 7 months old and upright on my back in the backpack carrier. On a related note, we've also had many people tell us that he should be on our fronts and not our backs. One woman went so far as to try to physically take the backpack straps off Josh's shoulders to move Jude to the front!

Something that we learned very quickly is that Moldovans like bread. Lots of bread. One day at school, they didn't have any bread for lunch because the bread truck hadn't come. Nobody would eat without the bread. A few of the teachers had to drive around to nearby stores and buy as much bread as they could, and I think they finally wound up eating around 3 o'clock. While they waited, one student told Josh that they can't eat without bread or they will have stomach problems. I'm told that this has happened during camp before too, and they did the same thing.

Another thing that comes up almost every day is the Moldovans' belief that the ground, tile floors, and anything made of concrete is cold (even in the summer). And if you walk on these surfaces barefoot or sit on them, then you will get a cold. Cold surfaces are especially dangerous to ladies because the cold will get in your ovaries and you will have fertility problems. When I'm playing with Jude, I'll sit anywhere-- the ground, the floor, the concrete steps outside-- I don't care. And it never fails that someone always says something to me about it. Some students will ask, "Isn't that cold?" and I'll say no and they'll go on about their business, but some of them will insist on finding me something else to sit on. They say the same thing when Jude sits or lays on the ground, and will insist on picking him up.

I said before that most Moldovans don't eat or drink cold things because they believe it will make them sick. It doesn't matter how hot it is outside, their drinks cannot be cooler than room temperature (they actually serve hot tea here for every meal even in the summer). One man we work with swears that he has had lifelong knee problems because of something cold he ate when he was a child. Eric, the missionary we work with, told us a story about another Moldovan friend of ours who went to Africa with him. It was so hot outside, and they were so thirsty, and they finally came to a place that sold cold Cokes, so they each bought one. Eric guzzled his right down, but the Moldovan waited until his had warmed up to drink it!


  1. How interesting to hear about another culture! Are you able to get cold drinks and drink them on the sly? ;-)

    It will be interesting to see how Jude remembers all this when he's older.

  2. That's just so weird! I'd have a really hard time adjusting to such a different culture.

  3. The funny thing is, they do sell cold drinks and even ice cream (though in the smaller stores it's common for them to have the drinks in the fridge machines but the machines are not turned on), so I know some people must be okay with eating cold stuff!

  4. Very interesting! Read it to my 12 & 10 year olds and they have been discussing the merits of hot vs. cold drinks for 20 minutes now.

  5. Me, haha that's hilarious! Let me know what they decide. :)

  6. One of my friends spent a year in Russia, and had a man literally try to assist her off a cold bench unprompted, because she'd "Never have the babies!!"

    So fascinating! I thoroughly enjoyed this post; I learned a lot. :O)